Hoffmans Two Toed Sloth & Baby (24 Sep 2015)

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

Out of the field and into the heart of Puerto Maldonado City, we still find wildlife lurking around our every corner. During Untamed photography’s stay in Puerto Maldonado, one of our leaders Mark Fernley accompanied by a volunteer of Fauna Forever noticed that there was an unusual screeching and cry coming from a small patch of forest near the house that Untamed Photography, Fauna Forever and Arc Amazon share. In the dark, but lit by the moon, we made our way towards the call and found a baby Sloth, roughly measuring  25-30cm in length.

We felt it was in danger so reluctantly we picked it up and placed it in a low tree.  Puerto Maldonado’s stray cats were becoming more than interested in the baby. The Sloth sat there in the tree calling for several hours. I remember saying to Joe, a volunteer of Fauna Forever “It’s good it is making so much noise, the more noise the better as the mother will stand a chance of finding it.”

Later, we heard a noisier than normal rustle above the roof of our sleeping quarters as the mother came down pretty hastily  (Sloths normally move as gently as a butterfly). She grabbed her offspring and clutched it against her chest and made her way up the tree and rested. With all the opportunities to photograph this incredible sighting, for once, we did not take photographs and were forced to capture the image in our minds. But from the fall, would this little baby have survived?

One week later in the same location, myself and another photographer were looking for a two meter Caiman that had been spotted. We went off in search of it and just as we got to the stream behind the sleeping quarters, an arm swung out to grab a branch. I froze and the mother Sloth spotted before with its baby was there no more than 30cm away from our heads very low to the ground. We slowly backed off and at a safe distance, we hastily went to get our camera equipment that was available at the time.

We returned to the place where it had been seen and she was still there with her baby which was active. We set up our Canon 70Ds and 7Ds along with Go Pro’s and began to get photos of this beautiful Hoffman’s two toed Sloth with her baby. As I got my final frame ready, the baby looked straight at me and the shot was timed perfectly capturing an intimate moment between the baby and the lens.

FACT: As you look at the main image, you can see there are many moths on the Sloths fur. This is because the Sloth’s skin contains  secretions and algae. There can be up to 120 moths on one individual. The moths are entirely dependent on the Sloths, and specifically on their daring defecation descents. While the Sloths defecate on the ground, the female moths fly over and lay their eggs onto the dung that has been made by the Sloth. The larvae depend entirely on the feces. Surrounded by their banquet, they slowly transform into adult moths and fly into the canopy and inhabit other Sloth’s fur. Studies have been done mainly in Costa Rica by researchers and it has been discovered that the moths are vital to both species of Sloth the moths carrying nitrogen from the feces which in turn fertilizes the fungi in the fur that the Sloths themselves eat.

Shortly after a quick tuition on framing the image and the biology of the animal, the Sloth was then GoPro’ed as it made its way up a Balsa wood tree into the canopies darkness.

Untamed Photography is glad that this little baby is still alive from its fall that happened several days before.

By Mark A Fernley


Hoffmans Two-toed Sloth Mother and Baby Photo by Mark A Fernley